>> Deshaun Watson. DeAndre Hopkins. Will Fuller. Philip Rivers. Austin Ekeler. Keenan Allen. The pace is slower on these teams, and the prices are fairly high; but there are big names involved on the offenses, and there should be some production to be found in this spot.
Before we dive into the passing attack of the visiting team, we’ll start with the Texans run game (or, I should say, “we’ll get the Texans run game out of the way”). The matchup for the Texans is not anything to shy away from after the Chargers were one of the more attackable run defenses in the league last year — and after he saw 20 carries last week in a tight win against the Jaguars while operating as the lead back, it is fair to expect Carlos Hyde to see the bulk of the carries in this one for as long as this game remains close. While the touches are nice, however, Hyde has slipped into something of an Adrian Peterson role with the Texans, with only one catch for two yards (on one target) through his first two games, against 30 carries on the ground. Hyde isn’t blocked from paths to a big game, but he is a two-down back with a bare-minimum pass game role on a team that is a slight underdog on the road.
Away from Hyde, things get a bit more interesting for the Texans, as we have Watson and his group of explosive pass catchers.
Targets on this offense are going to be spread around in this order:
>> DeAndre Hopkins (who has more targets than Fuller, Stills, and Coutee combined)
>> Will Fuller (who has more targets than Stills and Coutee combined)
>> Stills // Coutee
While you could always chase an outlier, big-play-based shot on Stills or Coutee, the guy to whom attention should shift in this spot is Hopkins, who should push for double-digit targets (as he almost always does). Hopkins should match up largely on Casey Hayward — and while the NFL Edge has been preaching the gospel of Casey Hayward since he was with the Packers, he is not on the same level as Nuk. Generally speaking, I don’t make a habit of paying up for wide receivers in tougher matchups, but Hopkins is just so consistent, and he has the feel of someone who will go a bit overlooked this week, making him an interesting name to keep in mind in tourneys.
Away from Casey Hayward, the Chargers’ secondary has been hit hard by injury, as starting corner Trevor Williams is now out, and Derwin James’ replacement Adrian Phillips has joined him on the sidelines. Although the Texans don’t have a tight end who can take advantage of the hole at strong safety for the Chargers, Phillips had also taken over as the communication leader in the absence of James. The drop in talent and communication in the Chargers’ secondary could be felt against the speed of a player like Fuller, who still carries his typically-low floor, but who also has legitimate slate-breaking upside. It would take just a couple things to go right for that upside to hit.
Of course, with prices higher on all the pieces in this game, you would ultimately want this game to turn into a true shootout, rather than just developing into a quality back-and-forth affair. So if targeting Deshaun Watson and/or loading up on multiple pieces from the Texans, recognize that a big play or two from the Chargers will go a long way toward helping you get the most out of these plays.
The best bet for a shootout to develop is Mike Williams, who could hit on a couple of his downfield routes; though if you like Watson this week and don’t feel comfortable taking on the low floor of Williams, Ekeler is also a threat for a big play against this Texans team that still has the pieces to be near the top of the league against the run, but that does not have the pieces it would need to consistently hang with Ekeler through the air. Ekeler should be in line for 18 to 22 touches as the leader of this backfield, with a scoring-position role and some of the best per-touch potential in the league.
While Williams and Ekeler are the pieces likelier to help turn this game into a shootout, Keenan Allen is the guy who should once again be in line for a heavy target share after seeing 15(!) looks last week. A 20th percentile usage game for Allen still probably gets him eight targets in this spot, and he has obvious upside for more. As always: the targets have to be there to justify the price tag on Allen, as he’s just not used downfield enough to be a comfortable play otherwise; but if he is able to rack up another eight or nine receptions and haul in a touchdown, he could be a nice piece on the slate once again.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Due to the typical pricing on these offenses and their respective styles of play, I find my eyes drawn toward other teams most weeks. But both of these teams are always solid bets for production, and this game between them yields a few noteworthy plays.
Ekeler will flirt with Tier 1 again, as he can just do so much on a per-touch basis, and is a mismatch against the Texans in the pass game.
Hopkins is one of the better wide receivers to consider paying up for this week (especially if early-week ownership projections hold anywhere close to true).
Fuller is a potential game-breaker; and while he hasn’t shown much to get excited about so far this year, we know what Mike Williams can do as well.
And then there’s Allen as a safe option with upside, and both quarterbacks can be considered as upside plays also.
I’m guessing that no one outside of Ekeler will flirt with Main Build territory for me (though if paying up at wide receiver were more my style, Hopkins would be on my list); but with all the value in other spots likely to pull attention off this game, I do like some of these other pieces in tourneys, and I’ll be looking to take a few shots on this game turning into a shootout in case the pieces fall in place.